Tale from the trail (6): the darkest hour is just before dawn

During our trip of a lifetime we tried to free camp as much as possible. This has some big advantages, but also some occasional downsides. In this particular case we were in for a rude awakening and some morning exercise.

In Sweden free camping is allowed and generally accepted. The Swedes refer to is as ‘allemannsrätten‘ (lit. “the everyman’s right”), the right to roam. Allemansrätten gives a person the right to access, walk, cycle, ride, ski, and camp on any land—with the exception of private gardens, the immediate vicinity of a dwelling house and land under cultivation.

This time we decided to pitch our tent in a field next to the road we were cycling. It didn’t look like a farmer’s field and we could put our tent behind some bushes, so that we weren’t too easy to spot from the street. It had rained the nights before and we were happy it was dry now, so our tent could dry out a bit. We passed the evening much like any other evening with cooking, journaling and reading. We went to bed early and fell asleep without any fuss.

Unfortunately a rude awakening awaited us. At about six in the morning I woke up to the rumbling sound of thunder and drops falling on our tent. I was wide awake within seconds. It was loud and I could feel the tension in the air. It only took another few minutes before the tent slowly but surely started leaking. It felt like now or never: either we leave now, or we wait it out. We decided to leave.

We got dressed, packed our bags as quickly as we could and got on our bikes. By now it was pouring, but by the looks of the clouds it was going even worse soon. We started cycling as quick as we could. We decided to continue on our route rather than try to get back to the last city. After a good ten minutes of cycling we were both drenched, but we saw a sign with a coffee cup and sheltered information center.

The road went uphill and the rain started pouring even harder. Just when I thought I couldn’t get any wetter and was about to give up, the chain on my bike broke. I was ready to burst into tears and yelled out to my boyfriend. He came running back to me and took over my bike. He ran both me and my bike up the last few meters of the hill and pointed. The shelter was right there!

I don’t think I was ever any happier to see a shelter than that moment right there. It make me think of a Dutch proverb ‘wanneer de nood het hoogst is, is de redding nabij’. It almost means the same as ‘the darkest hour is just before dawn’ or ‘help will be there when you most need it’.

We set up out tent to dry, changed our clothes and made some breakfast in the shelter. I had been hoping that the coffee bar would open and just as we finished eating a car pulled up. Yes, it was the lady of the coffee bar. She took pity on us and let us in early. Coffee never tasted so good.

 

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